This week was more than a little punishing for a lot of people. I’m hoping that it’s all’s well that ends well, but that still remains to be seen.
This week I heard from several writers who were struggling to get any writing done.
I also joined writing sessions every day with members of The Writer’s Flow Studio and my First Book Finish program, who were writing despite it all.
But my message this week is for the writers who told me they were struggling, because I do think there are situations where you get a hall pass on writing.
As you know, I’m not someone who believes that “real writers” write every day. That’s complete B.S.
Instead, I advocate looking at the week ahead with all of your commitments and real life particularities and planning your writing sessions — both Long and Short — based on what is happening in your life.
Most weeks, if you do this, you’ll be able to find sufficient time to allocate to your writing. I believe that is the case for most people most of the time, even if we sometimes have to get creative and ask for support to make it happen.
But there will be weeks, and sometimes a few weeks running together in a row, when it will be really hard for some of us to get much writing done. And I’m here to tell you that’s perfectly okay.
I find it’s fairly common for writers to beat up on themselves (and HARD) for not writing. No one cracks a whip on us better than ourselves. We haven’t written enough, we haven’t revised enough, we should be further ahead than we are…yes, our child was sick and our partner lost work due to COVID and we had no help around the house, but dammit we should’ve finished that novel by now.
What if we’re all in it for the long haul? What if we know deep down that we’re going to be writing for the rest of our lives? If we thought of our writing as a vocation rather than a hobby, would we be as worried about missing a few weeks or a few pages?
I know without a shadow of a doubt that when I’m a wizened little old lady, I will still be writing. I know I’m going to finish this draft of my current work-in-progress, and then I’m going to revise and edit it until it’s the best book it can be. With that in mind, a few pages or a few weeks here or there aren’t the end of the world.
If you’re stuck, stop beating yourself up because you’re finding it hard to write right now. Instead, focus on thinking about writing, reading about writing, connecting with other people about writing and the writing will come back to you.
- Do you have an anxiety disorder so you’re finding life particularly hard this week? Hall pass.
- Are you so depressed that you can’t get out of bed and take care of yourself? Hall pass.
- Do you have a chronic medical condition that is in a painful flare-up state just now? Hall pass.
- Is someone you love sick and in need of care? Hall pass.
- Are you grieving a deep loss? Hall pass.
You’re not any less committed, creative or talented as a writer because you needed a break. Take your break, get your rest and the writing will be there when you’re ready.
I’m all for showing up regularly so that inspiration shows up for you, but I do think that self-compassion is an essential tool to help create and sustain a writing life you love.
Of course that’s different than making excuses and avoiding your writing when all you really need to do is show up for yourself and set up your life to ensure your writing practice is both consistent and satisfying.
You get a hall pass because life can be hard sometimes and you deserve some compassion, as all humans do.
But if not being constantly productive makes you feel anxious, then fear not — there’s a practical side to this as well…
You might be someone who’s built up a writing practice that provides you with a feeling of sanctuary, so that your writing is the place you escape to when everything hits the fan. I know from experience that it’s possible to develop that kind of relationship with your writing, and I counsel the writers in The Writer’s Flow Studio to build up a writing routine that can offer them this.
But I also know that it’s hard to be open, creative and productive when we’re in pain. How much do you really gain from forcing it? Or for saying mean things to yourself because you feel like you “should” be superhuman enough to rise above it all and write no matter what emotional and/or medical hand-grenades were tossed into your life?
Often, pushing yourself to write doesn’t yield great results.
We don’t get to creative inspiration by way of punishment, so put the whip down and try some self-compassion instead.